Sustainable food

Supplementary written evidence submitted by Professor Sandy Thomas, Head of Foresight, Government Office for Science, Department for Business Innovation and Skills

Further detail on relevant areas to the EAC’s Sustainable Food Inquiry


· Defra have committed dedicated resources to following up to the report and was the lead UK Government partner in developing the programme for the Foresight Report’s European launch on 30th March 2011 in Brussels. This consisted of a presentation in the European Parliament, an all day seminar co-hosted by the Joint Research Centre and a Business Breakfast meeting. Director level representation chaired one of the seminar’s meetings.

· Defra are leading a programme of themed discussions for policy-makers with input from the project’s lead experts in the second half of this year. The programme of discussions will explore Defra’s own response to the report and will facilitate policy leads in accessing the evidence base in further detail. The first of these events will take place in the autumn focusing on ‘Producing more with less: unpacking Sustainable Intensification’. Following themes will include International Fisheries, Trade and Markets, Global food security indicators, and International Biodiversity ‘the road to Rio+20’.

· Defra is undertaking a director level stock-take exercise to identify precisely how the report has fed into policy making and to address any areas where the Foresight evidence needs to be better integrated. The exercise will form the starting point for reporting on what Defra is doing to meet its Foresight Action Plan.

· The Foresight Report was referred to within the Natural Environment White Paper.

In response to the Foresight Report, Defra committed to the following Action Plan:

Action 1: Champion a more integrated approach by governments and international institutions to global food security that makes the links with climate change, poverty, biodiversity, energy and other policies.

Action 2: Continue to press for full integration o f agricultural greenhouse gases into UNFCCC process; take forward Nagoya work on international biodiversity; and promote the importance of sustainable intensification of agriculture more broadly.

Action 3: Continue to press for reform of the CAP and CFP so that they are better focussed on long-term environmental sustainability and avoid harmful subsidies; support the EU as it seeks to negotiate a genuinely pro-poor conclusion to the Doha Development Round which includes a significant opening of agricultural markets; and plan an active role in talks in the G20, FAO and elsewhere aimed at finding ways of managing volatility.

Action 4: Showcase what can be achieved on food waste reduction within the UK , working with other countries and multinational companies to share and disseminate good practice.

Action 5: Work in partnership with our whole food chain including consumers to ensure the UK leads the way on sustainable intensification of agriculture, increasing the productivity and competitiveness of UK farming and food chain while reducing GHG emissions, protecting and enhancing the natural environment, using resources more sustainably, so that agriculture and the food sector can contribute fully to the green economy.


· The Global Food and Farming Futures Report concluded that food is wasted at all stages of the food chain: in high-income countries waste tends to be concentrated at the consumer end, and in low-income countries more towards the producer end.

· The report therefore concluded that reducing waste by consumers and the food service sector in high-income countries such as the UK, can be achieved through:

o Campaigns to highlight the extent of waste and the financial benefits of reducing it. Specific programmes aimed at consumers, companies in the food supply chain, and those providing meals in restaurants, firms, hospitals, schools and other institutions.

o The development and use of cheap, mass-produced sensor technology that can detect spoilage in certain perishable foods. This would allow more sophisticated food management than reliance on estimated ‘best before’ dates in retail food labelling and have the potential to ensure food quality as well as reduce waste.

o Productive recycling of surplus food deemed as non-premium quality. This could be achieved through redistribution of good-quality surplus food to consumers via schemes such as ‘Fareshare’ in the UK or the use of food no longer fit for human consumption as animal feed or a source of energy through processes such as anaerobic digestion.

o Spreading best practice. For example, a project in the Netherlands involving modest funding shows how waste in the supply chain from food processing through to the home can be significantly reduced by a combination of education and simple technology.

18 July 2011

Prepared 18th January 2012